Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Riddle of the Wren

Rate this book
Minda, who is trapped inside a dark nightmare, makes a journey to another world to confront Ildran the Dream-master and try to save the Lord of the Moors.

295 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1984

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Charles de Lint

439 books3,755 followers
Charles de Lint is the much beloved author of more than seventy adult, young adult, and children's books. Renowned as one of the trailblazers of the modern fantasy genre, he is the recipient of the World Fantasy, Aurora, Sunburst, and White Pine awards, among others. Modern Library's Top 100 Books of the 20th Century poll, conducted by Random House and voted on by readers, put eight of de Lint's books among the top 100.
De Lint is a poet, folklorist, artist, songwriter and performer. He has written critical essays, music reviews, opinion columns and entries to encyclopedias, and he's been the main book reviewer for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction since 1987. De Lint served as Writer-in-residence for two public libraries in Ottawa and has taught creative writing workshops for adults and children in Canada and the United States. He's been a judge for several prominent awards, including the Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon and Bram Stoker.

Born in the Netherlands in 1951, de Lint immigrated to Canada with his family as an infant. The family moved often during de Lint's childhood because of his father's job with an international surveying company, but by the time Charles was twelve—having lived in Western Canada, Turkey and Lebanon—they had settled in Lucerne, Quebec, not far from where he now resides in Ottawa, Ontario.

In 1980, de Lint married the love of his life, MaryAnn Harris, who works closely with him as his first editor, business manager and creative partner. They share their love and home with a cheery little dog named Johnny Cash.

Charles de Lint is best described as a romantic: a believer in compassion, hope and human potential. His skilled portrayal of character and settings has earned him a loyal readership and glowing praise from peers, reviewers and readers.

Charles de Lint writes like a magician. He draws out the strange inside our own world, weaving stories that feel more real than we are when we read them. He is, simply put, the best.
—Holly Black (bestselling author)
Charles de Lint is the modern master of urban fantasy. Folktale, myth, fairy tale, dreams, urban legend—all of it adds up to pure magic in de Lint's vivid, original world. No one does it better.
—Alice Hoffman (bestselling author)

To read de Lint is to fall under the spell of a master storyteller, to be reminded of the greatness of life, of the beauty and majesty lurking in shadows and empty doorways.
—Quill & Quire

His Newford books, which make up most of de Lint's body of work between 1993 and 2009, confirmed his reputation for bringing a vivid setting and repertory cast of characters to life on the page. Though not a consecutive series, the twenty-five standalone books set in (or connected to) Newford give readers a feeling of visiting a favourite city and seeing old friends.
More recently, his young adult Wildlings trilogy—Under My Skin, Over My Head, and Out of This World—came out from Penguin Canada and Triskell Press in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Under My Skin won 2013 Aurora Award. A novel for middle-grade readers, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, published by Little Brown in 2013, won the Sunburst Award, earned starred reviews in both Publishers Weekly and Quill & Quire, and was chosen by the New York Times Editors as one of the top six children's books for 2013. His most recent adult novel, The Mystery of Grace (2009), is a fascinating ghost story about love, passion and faith. It was a finalist for both the Sunburst and Evergreen awards.

De Lint is presently writing a new adult novel. His storytelling skills also shine in his original songs. He and MaryAnn (also a musician) recently released companion CDs of their original songs, samples of which can be heard on de Lin

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
489 (29%)
4 stars
570 (34%)
3 stars
467 (28%)
2 stars
102 (6%)
1 star
20 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 75 reviews
Profile Image for Milliebot.
810 reviews23 followers
August 1, 2016
This was another excellent folklore/fantasy take by de Lint. Minda's ordinary life is changed when she becomes haunted by disturbing nightmares. She meets who she considers a magical being in one of her dreams, who assists her in defeating her nightmares, in exchange for her agreement to free him from the stone he's trapped in. Minda sets off on a journey among many worlds and learns of the great power that lies within her.

What I loved about Minda were her flaws. She felt realistic because she is awed by the new beings she meets and the worlds she crosses into, and doubtful about her part in the grand scheme of things. As her own powers manifest, she struggles to control them, rather than just being the best at everything, as can happen in many books.

If you're a fan of Irish folklore, or de Lint's work, check this out!
Profile Image for Иван Величков.
948 reviews62 followers
December 17, 2018
Това е първият роман писан от де Линт и мога да кажа, че много добре загатва огромния потенциал, който авторът ще развие през годините в следващите си произведения. Тук все още не е намерил гласа си, но успява в малкия обем на книгата да развие доста мащабна история и да наблегне на посланията, които ще станат сюжетоизграждащи в следващите му книги.
Минда живее в малко градче заедно с баща си, който е съдържател на странноприемница. Животът и е скучен, еднообразен и не особено щастлив, а започва да има и повтарящи се кошмари. Една нощ на сън и се явява Джан – приказно същество подобно на сатир, който и казва, че в сънищата си е преследвана от могъщ магьосник, успял да го затвори в камък преди години. С помощта на дрвни артефакти, които и дава, Минда ще се впусне в шеметно приключение из приказни светове, изпълнени с магия и битки, гооворещи животни и древни раси,ще намери приятели и ще открие изстината за произхода си.
Харесва ми как главната героиня, въпреки загатването за необозримата мощ, която таи по наследство, е несигурна и уплашена, подобно на всяко момиче на нейно ��ясто. Как успява да израсте до отговорностите, които трябва да поеме, като се пребори с изкушенията по пътя.
На места де Линт изпада в струпвания на информация за мащабните светове, които рисува, а има и още няколко, типични за млад автор подхлъзвания, като прекалено много сила дадена на протагониста, малко излишни герои... При всички положения пак е по-добре от 80% от фентъзито на пазара и книгата не е остаряла и с минута от времената на написването си.
Profile Image for extrapulp.
58 reviews2 followers
September 15, 2021
bumpy - so very talky - clear seeds of much better future writing - but man - the constant circles retreading the same things the reader already knows, sees, can foresee - was a tough read - and seemed very unpolished compare to other CDL work. And the complicated naming of everything made so many things blurry and forgettable.
Profile Image for Jaylee.
Author 16 books79 followers
April 23, 2014
This book is incredibly special to me because it's the first book I bought with my own money. I was 9, and I had Christmas money from relatives. We stopped on the way home from my grandparents' house to go to Best Buy so my brother could spend his money and there was a Barnes n Noble next door, and I got to go there ALONE to pick out a book. And I bought this, and read it all the way home. :3

I really need to re-read it, because I'm not sure if my 9-year-old self had very discerning tastes, lol.
Profile Image for Elentarri.
1,494 reviews11 followers
January 14, 2022
The Riddle of the Wren is a beautifully written but generic, old-fashioned, quest fantasy where the teenage heroine finds herself and is supposed to save the world.  Beautiful world building but rather bland otherwise.  I never once thought that anyone important would die or that the quest would fail.  Younger readers might enjoy it more - I seem to have run out of steam for novels where teenage protagonists are involved.
Profile Image for Kate HT.
237 reviews12 followers
April 14, 2020
What an odd book. It was like an unexpected combination of Gaelic-feel folklore and sci-fi. Not my usual cup of tea, but the book had been sitting on my shelf forever. Overall, the book wasn't terribly descriptive so I had a hard time placing the characters in their environment and imagining what they were doing. Especially the "power" the characters fought with. It was too vague to be impactful. It was just strange, I can't think of another way to say it.
Profile Image for Mark R..
Author 2 books16 followers
July 4, 2020
"The Riddle of the Wren" is a lively, fast-paced adventure about a young girl discovering her abilities to travel between worlds. She finds herself in a dream-place, and encounters a mysterious and friendly individual who advises her that an evil force is tracking her between dimensions.

This is the first book by Charles de Lint, and my introduction to him. "Wren" is quick, at three hundred pages; there's so much action and an abundance of characters and strange names, enough for a book three times its size.

Some clever dialogue, and intriguing folks, including a giant rodent that speaks telepathically, and intelligent wolves who aren't really wolves. The bad guys are decent; some called the Walkers prove difficult to just swat aside, as the little Wren and her crew battle to save the various realms from unrepentant evildoers.
81 reviews20 followers
August 2, 2009
Charles de Lint is one of the major writers of what has come to be termed 'urban fantasy'. My current goal is to pick some key sf/fantasy writers and read their works from earliest to most current. This might not be the brightest idea I've ever had: Many, if not most, writers grow into their work over time, particularily if they've done a large body of work.

The Riddle of the Wren (De Lint's first book in terms of when he started writing) is a case in point. It's a competently written standard coming of age type fantasy with stock elements lifted out of Tolkien and other very familiar books from the fantasy genre. The characters are sympathetic, if unrounded. The world itself seems underdeveloped as well -- the book is one of the rare fantasy novels that could stand to put on some weight.

Still, it was a pleasant light-weight summer read.
Profile Image for Adrienne.
159 reviews25 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
December 19, 2020
Review also available on my blog The Shameful Narcissist Speaks.

The Riddle of the Wren is the type of old school fantasy novel I would’ve devoured in my younger, high school days. Published in 1984, it’s exactly the thing that would’ve caught my fancy, and while I started reading Charles de Lint during that time, I cut my teeth on his later works, and this one flew under my radar. You can definitely tell he was a fledgling author in this novel, and it turns out Riddle is his first. Like so many books of that era, it begins with the locale’s description before it gets to the main character. It does fascinate me how the conventions of writing change through the decades, and what was acceptable and expected then would earn an immediate rejection now.

Both the main character Minda and her best friend Janey are likable, and the trope of Missing Mom/Dickhead Dad is strong with regards to the former. Janey’s description leads me to believe she’s a WOC, too, so score one for de Lint being inclusive even back then. Minda’s father Hadon blames her for her mother’s death even though she didn’t die in childbirth (not…that that would make it valid either), but rather when she was between one and two. Arguably, of course, women can still succumb to complications even after that length of time, but either way Hadon is still a jackass. Minda has a paternal uncle who would be a much better father than her bio, but even if she did manage to escape, Hadon would just “drag her back,” and apparently Tomalin, the uncle, would let him. While Hadon isn’t nearly as abusive to his daughter as the father in Deerskin *shudders* we do not diminish abuse by those degrees.

It’s obvious that Minda carries some “special blood,” not only because of the novel’s plotline, but also because the blurb-mentioned Ildran wants Minda due to her matrilineal history. He tells her she’s “the last of them” and with her “the line dies,” which along with being a wickedly familiar motif,

Artwork of Aeris/Aerith and Ifalna from FFVII
Exhibit A

also tells me her mom was some kind of fey. This could also explain Hadon’s ironic antagonism towards his daughter, though if he thought about it for even a second, he’d realize she’s an important piece of the wife he lost.

Image of Counselor Troi from Star Trek: TNG sitting in front of her computer with one hand raised asking it Computer, Why are Men?

I mean, fuck, even Dracula came to that conclusion before he killed his only son in the bedroom he and his murdered wife built together, and he was freaking king of the vampires!

Artwork of Dracula/Vlad, Lisa, and baby Alucard from Castlevania
Family by GodSin666

Granted, it’s possible Minda’s father comes around by the end of the story. I DNF’d so I don’t know, but it still doesn’t excuse his abysmal, abusive behavior. While I was curious about how the story got to where it was going, I knew it was something I wasn’t going to enjoy reading.

Being de Lint’s first book, it’s forgivable that Riddle is rough around the edges, but these were issues he smoothed out in his later works, which is why he was one of my favorite authors (the only reason he isn’t as high up now is because I just haven’t happened to read anything by him in years). I had the same issue with GRRM’s first pieces, and he’s one of my favorites now. It’s a good lesson in not judging an author by their first work. I wouldn’t want anyone to do that for me, and there’s a reason many prolific ones don’t release their initial scribblings until years after they’ve achieved success.

After skimming the comments on Goodreads to confirm my theories, I decided the best thing for me to do was DNF and return the book to the library, but I plan to read another Charles de Lint soon. If you’re interested in what I’d recommend from him, give Into the Green (which I just recently purchased), Memory and Dream, and Someplace to Be Flying a look. De Lint was a major foundation of and influence on my writing style, that sort of mythopoetic eloquence that I desperately try to achieve, so at the very least reading and reviewing this novel has reminded me of how much I want/need to read and re-read more of his works.
1,362 reviews23 followers
December 12, 2022
3.5 stars, but rounding up, because it did pull me in by the end, and in recognition that this is an early novel by the author.

I enjoyed this a lot, but I didn't love it. I think it suffers from pacing. This novel is essentially a road trip (albeit one between worlds) as the protagonist tries to figure out who they are and save someone. The thing is, the pacing feels a bit off. You spend a fair bit of time in her home village at the start, and the characters are well-realized, which is great. But then (mild spoiler alert), the protagonist sets off on her journey, and you never hear from them again. This book also made me realize why most fantasy novels with complex world-building are long. There are a lot of fantasy creatures thrown in this thing, and very little context, so I think some of it loses its impact, because the reader doesn't have a lot of time to integrate the context of the newest fantasy race into the world. There is a lot of travelling and suddenly being beset by dangerous creatures, and it's unclear why one is so much more dangerous than the next. Or even i they are, they all kind of run together. There's also a little bit of telling and not showing in the narrative.

But a lot of that I can forgive in an early novel. Once this gets going (and it took about half the book for me really connect and sink into it), this is engaging. It's a fun fantasy novel. I like the protagnoist. I like her allies. I like the world. I've said it before, but de Lint is really great at character development.

I think this could have been tighter, but I'm glad I finally read it (this is another book that's been on my shelves for a decade). I enjoy the writing style, and I liked the ride. I am somewhat surprised that there's not a lot else in this world (or there doesn't seem to be), because it is developed in a fair bit of detail, and could definitely sustain other stories.
Profile Image for Aura Lowe.
11 reviews3 followers
October 16, 2022
Charles de Lint is one of my favourite authors. On a quest to read everything he's published, I picked up his first full-length book, The Riddle of the Wren.

Let me begin with everything I loved. The mythology, heavily influenced by Pan, the Horned One, was a treat. It's nice to see his roots started in the same place that make his more-popular books feel magical. You can see a peak of what's to come in this author's career when there's mention of wild folk. The lack of grammar and layout mistakes was so relieving, and I enjoyed immensely the weaving of description in a few instances. The ease of name pronunciation was appreciated.

This wasn't an automatic five-star rating for me because the story was bland, repetitive, and unoriginal. The main character underwent the same inner thoughts and conversations over and over. The world-building was weak. Within one paragraph, you will encounter 5 to 10 terms unique to this book that have very little explanation or reference. There's just too many of them; it's exhausting to read. It falls prey to the threat of an abundance of characters or locations with no real emotional attachment. Mysteries that seemed important remain unsolved without the flow or feel of a potential second book. I especially disliked the beginning of the book with the early 80s sexist undertones and absolutely miserable, clunky dialogue.

Although I am really harsh on it, it still holds that Charles de Lint magic. I'd recommend it still if you are a fan of his.
10 reviews
July 17, 2020
Alright, so this is the first older book I've read in a while, and it might be making me a bit biased. Writing styles change throughout the decades and going from 2010-2020 back to the 80s was a little jarring. It took me a while to adjust.

That said, I really liked this book. The world building was good, and the emphasis and folklore is something I often miss in modern fantasy. I would have liked it even better if this had been a series. So much is packed into this one small book that it goes a little fast at times. And I want it to be slower! I found myself anxiously looking at how few pages were left and wanting the book to be magically longer.

I can already tell I'm going to reread this one multiple times, because there is so much to love. The characters are quirky and flawed, just the way I like them. So much is left unexplored that I can't help but imagine Minda's future journeys, and at multiple points I had to put the book down and just daydream for a bit.

I recommend it, and if the beginning is a little off for you, stick with it! Once the journey starts it really captures your attention.
5 reviews
October 26, 2017
I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was with the others I’ve read by this author. It was his first, apparently, and I felt like it showed. The writing was pretty good but didn’t stand out, and while some aspects of the concept and setting were interesting, the story and characters didn’t feel particularly original. I’m not sure how much of it is stylistic, and how much of it is the author’s improvement over time, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.

I know it’s not fair to write a review based mostly on comparing a book to other books by the same author, but it’s hard for me not to in this case. I’ve read several of De Lint’s other books and loved them, and the difference in genre - high fantasy as opposed to urban fantasy - just served to highlight the contrast. The latter seems to suit his style more, and I’m not surprised that it’s what he’s better known for.

It’s not a bad book, but I don’t feel that it was especially memorable, either.
Profile Image for Massimiliano.
76 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2018
A fairly decent read overall, compared to my other foray into DeLint's bibliography,"Moonheart" (which I loathed). An interesting tentative to write a high fantasy with a tantalizing worldbuilding but still a character-oriented story.
Not perfect, the worlds feel a bit too sketchy and 2-dimensional.
2 reviews
January 23, 2021
My mother bought me this book and it has been one of my most favorite books since childhood. There's something beautifully simplistic about it's story but it manages to get a deeper meaning across even in part that one overlooks. The main character's growth is wonderful to watch even if at some points you'll want to strangle her.
2 reviews
March 15, 2019
I read this book as a teenager, I decided to enter the world of dreams again.

Big takeaways, you are not responsible for the choices of others and listen to half of what tinkers say and only believe a quarter of that.
October 28, 2022
Yes, this is de Lint's first book, and it shows, but I would read his books a lot more if he had stayed with the "high fantasy" sub-genre, improving on this one, instead of swerving into contemporary fantasy. My prejudices are showing.
Profile Image for Elle Hartford.
Author 15 books262 followers
November 29, 2022
I picked this up because of a recommendation from a friend, and found it very interesting. The beginning was a little tough (abuse, etc), but the lore of the world was fascinating. The solution was quick but satisfying, I thought. Overall, an intriguing fantasy journey!
Profile Image for Dawn.
15 reviews25 followers
March 21, 2017
I loved this book when I was younger, enough so that I recently ordered a copy to read aloud with my daughters, ages 16, 15 & 12. I'm crossing my fingers that they enjoy the story as much as I did when I first came upon it.
Profile Image for Audrey Cullen.
12 reviews
November 29, 2018

I loved the unique folklore setting of this book, but at times it grew a bit slow and I found my self having to reread sections. It was quite slow- paced, so it took me longer than it should’ve taken for me to finish. I do respect Charles de Lint’s detailed setting descriptions.
Profile Image for Melanti.
1,256 reviews117 followers
June 26, 2016
This one is better than Harp of the Grey Rose by far, but it is still nowhere close to being on par with his current books. It is a little bit dated - my opinion would probably be better if I'd read it back in the 80's while this sort of plot was still in fashion.

The good - There were echoes of his current themes - strong female main characters from sad backgrounds, gods that gain their power from their worshipers, the dreaming realm, etc.

The bad - The main character being physically abused in this case doesn't quite make sense. Her reactions in several places are more like one who was emotionally abused, but not physically. I just don't get what the physical aspect of abuse really contributes to the story in this case.

The story has almost a frenetic pace to it. They jump from place to place rapidly- hardly knowing where they're going to go next. Likewise, characters jump in and out of the plot just as rapidly. Some are important and reappear later, others just disappear. I didn't get lost, but I think fewer characters that stayed long enough to get emotionally involved with would be an improvement.

Last, the first few chapters in Fernwillow suffer from not being anchored in a set time period. The characters seem to have modern day concerns - reading, boys, girlfriends - and modern day slang, but there's absolutely no technology other than an abundance of cheap reading material and spending money. Not even being able to estimate a time period bothered me.

The book is worth reading, even if only to see how far Charles de Lint has come. A very long ways indeed. But please, if you're new to his writing, check out his short story collections first.
Profile Image for Patty.
2,322 reviews100 followers
July 14, 2015
“She lay there, waiting for sleep to come, but the excitement of what she had just done kept her awake. It was only the first step of – how long a journey? Did it matter? It was enough to be free of Hadon and of the inn, to be responsible only to herself… and the promise she made to the moorman.” p. 40

I have been reading de Lint’s wonderful fantasy for years. I looked over my reading list here and I seem to average one de Lint book per year. He is definitely an author worth revisiting.

This novel appears to be his first published book. For good or bad, it shows. Although Minda’s story is well-imagined and well-written, it seems dependent on old myths and tales. I don’t have a problem with this, but de Lint’s stories have become much more. His world has grown in many ways, all of them making it better and richer.

I did get caught up in the tale and there were several characters with whom I could have spent more time. There was enough tension to make me read quickly to make sure that all turned out best for the little wren (Minda) and her friends.

de Lint writes about friendship, love and honor. All of those themes appear in this book and as a regular reader, I like seeing the beginnings of his wonderful tales. However, if you have never read de Lint, I recommend that you start with some of his stories set in Newford. I especially liked The Ivory and the Horn.

Profile Image for Lauren Giova.
17 reviews5 followers
September 26, 2007
I rather enjoyed this book. I felt for the character in all her struggles even if i couldn't identify with her. Minda was innocent enough but she wasn't weak. I can't stand weak or indecisive characters. I understand that in some points in the story there are going to be times when these two characteristics will show themselves but they have to be sparing and believable. De Lint was definitely able to keep the balance.
The glossary in the back of the book was a plus when i didn't understand some of the fey terminology. I have to say i would have been confused and frustrated if i wasn't able to see what these words meant. It would have kept me from enjoying the story.
There was also a clean line between good and evil which is comforting. I could pick a side easily. I don't mind the occasional philosophical approach saying that everything is (to an extreme) both good and evil. There is enough of that in the world and when i read sometimes i just want to hate the villain and love the hero[ine]. I was able to do that with this story. I definitely recommend this book.
Profile Image for Stephen.
185 reviews100 followers
July 27, 2010
The Riddle of the Wren is not the first Charles de Lint book I have read. However, it is the first time I've read a book set in his own created worlds (previous reads were set in Farmer's Dungeon series). Many people had given the book very good reviews.

So, I tracked it down...and WOW! This book was exactly what I had hoped for. The story had a flow about it that I found very easy to get immersed in.

The first thing I noticed was just how likable the main character, Minda, really is. As a reader, I came to feel a genuine concern for her and her plight.

There are many supporting characters introduced throughout, but de Lint does not let this bog the plot down. On the contrary, each additional character brings another jolt of new life to the story.

Overall, the whole of the story was magnificent. This, I believe, was de Lint's first published book, but it doesn't show. I was thouroughly impressed and have now purchased more from him, including Moonheart and the Harp of the Grey Rose.

If you have not experienced Charles de Lint and you enjoy epic fantasy with a touch of folklore, please give the Riddle of the wren a try!
Profile Image for Kellie.
56 reviews
July 16, 2009
The Riddle of the Wren had a good plot and idea, but the writing was hard to understand. It jumped from different characters perspectives and you wouldn't realize that until you were half way down a page. I felt that Minda, the main character, acted more realistically to finding out that other worlds existed and that she was someone special, compared to other fantasy books I've read. A lot of the made up words and weird names made it difficult to read and I was flipping back to the glossary frequently to understand the meaning. The most confusing part was when Minda fought Ildran in the end and killed him, similarly the soul fighting or whatever it was I'm still not sure, was hard to follow and it would just end saying: He was dead. Overall I liked the basic idea and plot of the story and I especially liked how the young heroin met her fait and prevailed. Though like always I wish that i knew more of what happens after.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hobart.
2,307 reviews58 followers
February 22, 2011
This was not the best fantasy I've read lately, and I know (well, strongly believe) I'm going to read at least one this year that will dwarf its quality by a magnitude I can't calculate. BUT...

there pretty much has to be a but here, right?

BUT...this character, this world (better, these worlds), the supporting characters...there's something about them all that just works. More than works, charms you and wins you over.

de Lint does a great job of introducing the incremental changes happening to Minda as she journeys to and through worlds she didn't know did or could exist until she's thrown into them. Not only the changes that are happening to her that she's unaware of, but the ones she sees--and decides to make in herself--as she travels. It's absolutely believable, utterly winning.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 75 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.